Eight Facts About Iraq
by Laurence M. Vance
The Bush administration, its accomplices in the news media, and the conservative talk show hacks who do the bidding of the Republican party have sold America a bill of goods. The invasion of Iraq was justified, we have been led to believe, because Saddam Hussein was the reincarnation of Adolph Hitler, Iraq was in the position of Germany on the eve of World War II, and the "elite" Republican Guard was the equivalent of the German Wehrmacht. According to the president himself: "We will end a brutal regime, whose aggression and weapons of mass destruction make it a unique threat to the world."
Right wing Christians too, who ought to know better, have also been duped because of their misplaced trust in the state just because it is currently controlled by the Republican party (the same Republican party that is expanding government at a rate not seen since the Democratic administrations of Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt).
Located at the northern tip of the Persian Gulf, and encompassing the land of ancient Mesopotamia, as well as the biblical Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the country of Iraq, which until recently could not be located on a map by most Americans, is now the focus of all Americans. But because most Americans are woefully ignorant of history, and especially the history of U.S. intervention into other countries; and because most Christians are just as ignorant of history, and especially Christians who spend all their time believing what they read in the newspaper, hear on the radio, and see on television, some facts about Iraq are in order.
Fact Number 1: There was no country of Iraq until it was created by the British in 1920. In 1534 the Ottoman Turks conquered the area of what is now Iraq. Here the Ottoman empire ruled until its defeat in World War I because Turkey sided with the Central powers. After World War I, the French and British divided up the formerly Ottoman-controlled lands in the Middle East. France was given a League of Nations mandate over Syria and Lebanon; Great Britain was given the same over Palestine, Transjordan, and Iraq. The modern state of Iraq was created out of the three Ottoman provinces of Basra, Mosul, and Baghdad. The defeat of the Turks may have brought to an end the Ottoman empire, but it began a century of Western imperialism.
Fact Number 2: The United States already sponsored two previous regime changes in Iraq. Under their League of Nations mandate, the British installed King Faisal as the ruler of Iraq. But even after its independence, Iraq was still controlled by Britain. Faisal’s dynasty lasted until his grandson Faisal II was executed in a 1958 coup. The Hitler in Iraq in the early 1960s was Abd al-Karim Qasim. After deposing the Western-allied Iraqi monarchy in 1958, Qasim was seen by the U.S. as a counter to Gamal Abdel Nassar of Egypt. But after he was perceived as too much of a threat to Western oil interests, Qasim was killed in February 1963 in a CIA-sponsored coup by the anti-Communist Baath party. American firms soon began doing business with Baghdad. All was not well, however, in the Baath party, for in 1968 an internal coup brought to power General Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr, who was succeeded by Saddam Hussein in 1979. These regime changes in Iraq were both accompanied by bloody reprisals.
Fact Number 3: Saddam Hussein was an ally of the United States until the first Persian Gulf War. The U.S.-Hussein connection actually goes all the way back to the late 1950s. Hussein was part of a group that tried to assassinate Abd al-Karim Qasim after he seized power in 1958. Fleeing Iraq, he eventually settled in Cairo, Egypt, where he was courted by the CIA. During the 1980s, when Iraq was at war with Iran, military intelligence was provided to Iraq because the United States sought to do whatever was necessary to prevent Iraq from losing its war with Iran. The U.S. problem with Iran stemmed from decades of American intervention that backfired when radical Shiite Muslims overthrew the Shah and installed the Ayatollah Khomeini. The United States has a bad habit of collaborating with tyrants who later come back to bite us. Who can forget that Joseph Stalin, one of the bloodiest killers who ever lived, was our "ally" in World War II?
Fact Number 4: Iraq got its "weapons of mass destruction" from the United States. This started after the Baath party coup of 1963, when the U.S. sent arms to the new regime. But during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, when, under the successive administrations of Reagan and Bush I, Saddam Hussein was our ally against Iran, it was not just arms that were provided to Iraq. According to the 1992 U.S. Senate committee report on U.S. Chemical and Biological Warfare-Related Dual-Use Exports to Iraq, "the United States provided the government of Iraq with ‘dual use’ licensed materials which assisted in the development of Iraqi chemical, biological and missile-system programs." This included anthrax, VX nerve gas, West Nile fever germs, botulism, salmonella, and E coli.
Fact Number 5: Iraq was a liberal Muslim state. Iraq is made up of three major groups: the Kurds, the Shiites, and the Sunnis. The Shiites, which are in the majority, are the more radical Muslims. The ruling Baath party was more closely associated with the more moderate Sunnis, which make up about 35 percent of the population. Unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran, and most other Muslim states, Iraq was not controlled by a fundamentalist Muslim government, something that is now a possibility. One could even purchase a drink in Baghdad. The Baath government tolerated both Jews and Christians, something not to be seen in Muslim countries like Indonesia, Turkey, and Iran.
Fact Number 6: Iraq was not responsible for the 9-11 attacks on the United States. Many Americans who supported the war with Iraq did so because they were led to believe that the U.S. was retaliating for the terrorist attacks on September 11. Yet, none of the hijackers of the airplanes on September 11 were from Iraq (or Afghanistan). They were mainly from Saudi Arabia, our supposed Muslim ally in the Middle East. No connection has ever been proved between Iraq and al-Qaeda or Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. There is even evidence that the invasion of Iraq was planned before the September 11 attacks. A September 2000 document issued by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) entitled "Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources For A New Century," drawn up by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz, shows that Bush’s cabinet intended to take military control of the Persian Gulf region regardless of whether Saddam Hussein was in power.
Fact Number 7: Iraq was not a threat to the United States. Although Bush’s initial justification for war was that Iraq was a "threat to the United Nations" (certainly no reason for the U.S. to go to war), this was soon shifted to Iraq being a threat to the United States. But even though Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld insisted that "no terrorist state poses a greater and more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq," the condition of Iraq said otherwise. Not only was Iraq’s army considerably weaker than it was during the first Persian Gulf War – a war in which Iraq only managed to kill 148 Americans – but Iraq had no navy or air force. Iraq’s economy was in ruin after a decade of sanctions – sanctions that destroyed its water supplies. The GNP of Iraq was not even 15 percent of that of the state of Washington. The only time in history when Iraq did actually attack the United States – an Iraqi warplane attacked a U.S. ship in the Persian Gulf in 1987 resulting in the killing of dozens of U.S. sailors – we did nothing because Iraq apologized for its "mistake." No, the greatest threat to freedoms of the American people is not Iraq. The greatest threat to the freedoms of the American people is not some country six thousand miles away; it is our own government. How is it that in a country with such a heritage of individual liberty like the United States, one can smoke in a restaurant in Baghdad, but not in Manhattan? How is it that in a country with a Christian heritage like the United States, one can buy a gun in Baghdad, but not in Washington D. C.? If Iraq’s neighboring countries did not feel the need to send troops to Baghdad, then why did we?
Fact Number 8: Iraq is the Mideast’s second largest oil producer. Although this is a fact that everyone knows, it is downplayed by all proponents of the war with Iraq. But if oil has nothing to do with the U.S. intervening in Iraq, then why hasn’t the U.S. intervened in Sudan, where 2 million Christians have been killed during the past decade? What about the persecution of Christians in Indonesia? Why hasn’t the U.S. intervened in Zimbabwe, where the Marxist tyrant Robert Mugabe has been confiscating the country’s farmland? Why has Fidel Castro – 90 miles away from our shores – been untouched for 40 years? Why didn’t the U.S. instigate a "regime change" when Idi Amin was killing thousands of his own black people in Uganda in the 1970s? Why didn’t the U.S. instigate a "regime change" when the Tutsis were slaughtered by the Hutu government of Rwanda in 1994? Would things have been different if Sudan, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Uganda, and Rwanda had significant oil reserves?
These sobering facts, unknown to Americans who get all their news from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX, and CNBC, should cause every citizen, and especially every Christian, to question the motives of the state the next time it is insisted that we should invade another country. They should also cause all Americans to question the necessity of the United States maintaining 184 military bases in over 100 countries around the world. God never appointed the United States to be the world’s policeman.